Saturday, December 27, 2014

Setting Goals

Why set goals?
Why should you set goals? This blog series is about many things, but it is chiefly about rising above mediocrity. Whether you live an average or above average life, I want to inspire and encourage you to continue growing in your life. Always continue to move forward in life. That is why we set goals: to challenge ourselves to move forward.



We all have dreams. Even if we forget about them, don't talk about them, or suppress them, we still have them. What are your dreams? What are the things you wish you could do? Take a minute and think about them.



Some are skeptical of this talk about dreams, and they have good reason to be. Many people take this stuff too far. You must have a dose of realism in this subject. You cannot fly! I am not selling some idea that you can do anything if you just believe. That being said, I think that you and I can do more than we give ourselves credit for.



Dreams are like clouds in the sky, and your goals are like a ladder to get you to them (or closer to them). Goals are more realistic than dreams, and each goal accomplished is a step up the ladder, closer to your dream. This post is based largely off of a chapter of EntreLeadership by Dave Ramsey. The second chapter is all about setting goals, and it has become a huge part of my life these past couple of years. The book is on being a leader and an entrepreneur. If this post, or leadership in general, interests you I would highly recommend the book. (http://www.daveramsey.com/store/prodentre.html?ictid=elbookpg)



Wheel of Life
Another theme in my life right now (which will also be a big part of this blog series) is growing in all areas of life. What are the different areas of life? I don't believe there is an exhaustive list. However, the book lists seven areas that Zig Ziglar calls the "wheel of life". This wheel has seven spokes: Career, Financial, Spiritual, Physical, Intellectual, Family, and Social. I have my own list, which is a bit different.
  1. Religion/Spiritual- your fundamental beliefs and practices
  2. Academic/Intellectual- knowledge is power! (or at least it's helpful)
  3. Health/Physical- taking care of your body
  4. Occupational- what you do with your time: hobby, job, or volunteer
  5. Social- your relationship with others*
  6. Financial- managing your money
*I include family inside the social spoke, although I can understand where some might want to keep them separate.



I will go in depth on each of these "spokes" in later posts. Remember, in this wheel of life, if you leave one side of the wheel flat – you have a flat tire. We all have one or two areas that we are good at, and we also have one or two areas that make us cringe. "Well that area is not important," we tell ourselves.



On the contrary, each area is important. We may have one or two area that we are proficient in, but it is important to grow in each area. Religion is your fundamental presuppositions about life. How do you answer the big questions? Is there a God? What is the nature of man? Where did we come from? We must think carefully about these questions, as they will impact how we see everything else, and how we act. The intellectual spoke is important because no one wants to be seen as an idiot. Therefore we must be constantly learning and thinking (deeply) in order to keep our minds sharp. The intellectual area is probably the easiest area for me, with an interest that bleeds into the spiritual area.



Conversely, the physical aspect has been my least favorite, but I am getting better. There are plenty of reasons for keeping physically fit, but for me the main reason is that improved health can also improve memory and thinking skills (http://www.health.harvard.edu/blog/regular-exercise-changes-brain-improve-memory-thinking-skills-201404097110). I think most people don't realize that a career is not just important for a paycheck, but also to provide mutual benefit between yourself and society. Also it is important to have and manage your money, because more money isn't good or evil, it simply means having more opportunities. I will cover each of these spokes in later posts.



Goals must have four things in order to work
New Year's Eve is the time where we make promises to improve ourselves, which we never actually keep. Why? Well, I believe that our resolutions are missing a few things. This year, instead of making vague promises you will never keep, set specific goals, to really improve yourself.



I have been doing this for a couple years now, so I can say from experience: the more seriously you take this, the more you will get out of it. Set new goals every year. Then each month set new goals within your annual goals. Then within that, set new goals for that week.



Goals that work must...
  1. Be specific and measurable
If you say "This year, I resolve to lose weight", it's not the same as saying "I'm going to lose ten pounds this upcoming year". The first statement is vague. How much weight are you going to lose? You could lose a milligram and meet your goal, then just gain it back for lunch. No real change has been made. Your goals must be specific if you want to move forward.
2. Have a time limit
So you want to lose ten pounds? That's not specific enough. Adding a time limit helps make them more specific. It also helps you stay focused. Let's say you want to lose 120 pounds this year. You can set a goal to lose ten pounds each month, and one-third of a pound every day.
Of course these numbers are simply for example, but are you beginning to see how being specific makes your outrageous dreams into feasible goals?
3. Be your own goals
It must be your own goal. Not one that someone else set for you. It must be something you want to do (even for someone else), not something that someone else wants you to do. I've made the mistake of setting goals for other people... I don't think they ever kept my goals for them. "My wife wants me to lose weight," is not the right mentality to have, "I want to lose weight for my wife," is better. It is nice to do things for others, but if you live your whole life on what others want you to do, you will be miserable.
4. Be in writing
This one is probably the simplest, but most overlooked. A study by the Dominican University (http://cdn5.sidsavara.com/wp-content/uploads/2008/09/researchsummary2.pdf) shows that you are significantly more likely to accomplish your goals if you write them down. This is supported by common sense. I believe there are two reasons. First, if you don't write them down you will forget about them. Our memories are simply fickle like that. Second, it serves as a powerful visual reminder. I have my goals written on an excel spreadsheet, which I review every week to check off. I also have a list of daily goals on my phone. I erase each goal as I accomplish them. When you check off or erase goals, it motivates you, because you can visualize your progress!




So there you have it. Now set some resolutions (I mean goals) which you will actually keep this year. Make sure you are setting your own goals, that they are things you actually want to do. If you can, set goals in all six areas of life. Make sure your goals are specific, measurable, and have a time limit on them. Then, write your goals down.